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Janine Jackson: Cynthia Terrell directs the Representation 20/20 project at the group FairVote. She joins us now by phone. Cynthia Terrell, what now for diversity in Congress?

Cynthia Terrell: There’s never been a successful tale to tell yet about diversity in Congress, which is one of those, I think, undertold stories about this election, and so many other elections. There, of course, were a few great spots this last Tuesday, particularly for women of color. In the Senate, in the House, there will be nine new women of color, who happen to all be Democrats in Congress, three in the US Senate and six in the House, so that’s terrific. But I think the overall picture and the overall climate for change is not very positive for women or for people of color, and that’s something that we’re going to have to address.

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The Establishment

“We just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.”

-Hillary Clinton, Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2016

By Katie Toth

I’ll be honest: When I heard that battle cry from Hillary Clinton after her nomination as the first female presidential nominee of a major party, I rolled my eyes.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The nation may soon wake up to its first woman president and a record number of women senators, but down ballot, the news is not good for women in elected office.

At least 44 of our 50 governors will be men next year, and the U.S. standing among all nations for representation of women has declined from 44th in 1995 to 96th in 2016.

In Pennsylvania, very little progress has been made despite political party policies aimed at achieving gender parity.

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It's Time Network

In order to address the complex and interdependent issues that exist in our world today, people across the gender spectrum must work in partnership for collective impact and systemic change. To facilitate and support this, It’s Time Network is building a national network of individuals and organizations across sectors that engage, support, and elevate women and girls, so we can work collectively to evolve democracybuild fair economies, and regenerate the Earth.

It’s Time Network affiliates with innovative, independent thought leaders representing a full spectrum of issues, sectors and lived experiences.

One of these leaders is Cynthia Terrell, co-founder of FairVote, a non-partisan reform nonprofit that works to make each voice count in elections at every level by way of structural electoral reforms. Since helping to found FairVote in 1992, Cynthia has been on a mission to find practical ways to advance proportional representation voting methods informed by American, candidate-centered values in order to represent the full spectrum of voters more fairly.


Starting at an early age, Cynthia became active in student government. In college, she worked on numerous candidates’ campaigns, passed ballot measures, and even won three campaigns of her own for student council president. After college she became increasingly aware of the underrepresentation of women and racial minorities in positions of political power, and the need for more meaningful and innovative discussions around the voting system. In partnership with her husband, Cynthia set out on a mission to change this, and opened the doors to their first office under the name the Center for Voting and Democracy.

In 2004, they changed the name to FairVote, embracing additional reform innovations like the national popular vote plan for presidential elections,universal voter registration and a right to vote in the Constitution. As Americans, it is our vote that elects representatives at all levels of government. FairVote believes each viewpoint must be respected, every voice must be heard and each vote be counted. To make this a reality, it’s important that we make democracy work for everyone, hearing not just the opinion of the majority, but those of the minority as well.

In 2013, Cynthia and her team launched Representation2020, a program of FairVote that focuses on raising awareness around the underrepresentation of women in elected office, to strengthen coalitions that are supportive of measures to increase women's representation, and to highlight the often overlooked structural barriers to achieving gender parity in American elections. While women make up 51% of the U.S. population, they make up only 19% of congress, 24% of state legislators and 12% of governors. Cynthia supports efforts to encourage and prepare individual women to run, but believes that if we are to win gender parity, we must learn from the structural changes that have elected women in higher numbers in the 95 nations that rank above the United States in women’s representation.

One of the biggest challenges these programs face is that Americans don’t entirely understand our current voting system. While a handful of other nations operate under the same system as we do, our system of democracy is far from the norm. Many believe that money, power, and success come to those who simply work hard, but that is hardly the truth for women and minorities, who face barriers to leadership that we must break down through systemic change.

Alongside the mission of Respresentation2020, Cynthia and the FairVote team are focused on moving forward, working on getting more cities and states to implement a ranked choice voting system and fair representation voting for Congress and state legislatures. With our government being impacted by historic levels of dissatisfaction among citizens and the lowest voter turnout in years, it’s their goal to strengthen democracy at every level. FairVote looks beyond the short-term actions of political parties and power-seekers, working to develop simple and practical solutions to advance the reforms that result in a more fair election and challenge the status quo as outlined in FairVote’s Monopoly Politics report.

By empowering every citizen to have a voice, they bring power back to the vote, and make democracy work better for all. Here are some major advancements happening right now:

  • Ranked Choice Voting For All:Ranked choice voting, gives voters the opportunity to rank as many candidates as they want in order of choice, rather than having to vote for just one candidate among two main party options. San Francisco was the first city to switch to ranked choice voting, adopting the system to elect all city officials by a charter amendment in 2002 and holding its first ranked choice voting elections in 2004. Currently, ranked choice voting has been implemented in four Bay Area cities in California. Voters in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and San Leandro were able to elect leaders in a high turnout presidential election instead of having to rely on either low turnout runoffs in December or low turnout primaries in June. Studies have confirmed that ranked choice voting elects more women and people of color, while also increasing civility and reducing the impact of money on campaigns, as candidates have an incentive to get second and third choice votes from their opponents supporters. With the hope of adding more to the list of participating cities, FairVote tracks bills in state legislatures that move innovations forward. Check out these lists to see if there’s pending reform legislation in your state.

  • Maine Taking The Reigns: While Maine has a long history of independent thinkers in local, state, and national offices, the state also has a large number of independent voters that have elected governors, U.S. Senators, and state legislators from a variety of parties. Though ranked choice voting was introduced to Maine voters in Portland in 2011, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a citizen-led grassroots organization, is now pioneering efforts to promote majority winners in statewide elections through a statewide measure for ranked choice voting that is on the ballot this November. Check out the video describing the benefits of ranked choice voting in Maine.

Cynthia Terrell’s work  to make American democracy fair by changing the way we vote, and giving voters more voice and greater choice in their elections is truly inspiring.
Change starts with you! What can you do right now? Be agents of change within your community by working to get ranked choice voting adopted in your city or on your college campus. Using the Ranked Choice Voting Activist Toolkit, supporters are given the necessary tools to become leaders, activist, and organizers, creating change at every level of government.

If you’d like to learn more about FairVote, and stay updated on their mission, check out their website, and follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

The Baltimore Sun

The nation may soon wake up to its first-ever woman president and most-ever women senators, but down ballot, the news is not good for women in elected office. At least 44 governors will be men next year, and the U.S rank among all nations for the representation of women has declined from 44th in 1995 to 96th in 2016.

Consider Maryland. In 1993, Maryland ranked 5th in Representation2020's Gender Parity Index, which measures women in local, state and federal office. While women have made up at least 32 percent of the state's House of Delegates since 1995, Maryland has never elected a woman to be governor, attorney general or comptroller. None of Maryland's five largest counties have women executives, either, and only two of Maryland's 10 largest cities have women mayors. Maryland has dropped to 21st in our index, and it's about to get worse.

FairVote's Monopoly Politics has near-perfect accuracy in forecasting congressional winners. Men are favored to win every House seat in Maryland this year, with only Republican Amie Hoeber having an uphill chance in the 6th district. Chris Van Hollen is heavily favored to replace Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate, positioning Maryland to have its first all-male congressional delegation since 1972.

What can Marylanders do to elect more women and keep them in office? Structure matters. Our research shows that structural reforms are essential for clear and lasting impact on women's electoral success.

First, we need to improve recruitment. Better recruitment entails challenging the institutions that influence who runs for office — like PACs, donors and political parties — to set targets for the number of women candidates they recruit and support. These voluntary targets mimic the quotas that are used in over 100 nations to fuel the election of women candidates and are similar to the widely accepted gender balance that comes from rules in other fields like entertainment and athletics.

Second, we need fair voting systems that give people the power to choose their representation. Fair voting combines multi-winner districts with ranked choice voting. Multi-winner districts (where more than one member represents a community) have a history of electing more women. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of choice. Like-minded voters are able to support the candidates they like the best without fear their vote will help the candidate they like the least. That creates openings for women, people of color and all parties in areas that are now one-party strongholds. It is in use today across the country and can be used at the local, state and federal level without amending the U.S. Constitution.

Third, we need to promote better legislative practices for collaborative policy making. Better internal legislative practices can help women — and men — juggle the demands of family and their elected office. Tailored to the specifics of the level of office, changes include better on-site child care, paid leave, virtual or proxy voting, and leadership selection processes based on both merit and intentional actions to elevate women to leadership positions.

We have strong precedents for such changes. Title IX leveled the playing field for girls and women in education and athletics, while the Voting Rights Act addressed systems that disadvantaged people of color. Republicans led the way nearly 100 years ago to enact gender quotas for their state and national party committees as well as convention delegates from many states, with the Democrats following suit. The common thread is that we addressed inequality by changing the rules and laws — not just by expecting individuals to change.

Maryland can lead the nation again on women's representation if we look at innovative strategies that challenge the status quo and bring new talented voices to the table.

Cynthia Terrell is a founder of Representation2020 and FairVote. Her email is [email protected].

C-SPAN Classroom

This section of the website, developed by our 2015 Summer Teacher Fellows, provides explanations of the various aspects of the election process for candidates vying to become the next President of the United States. Separated into 10 main areas, each topic is supplemented with related video clips, discussion questions, handouts, and culminating activities to reinforce students' learning.

Gender & Presidential Campaigns

  • Video Clip: Millennial Women and the Election (07/26/16 – 3:30)
    A panel discussed the demographic of millennial women, the issues important to them, and their impact in electoral politics.
  • Video Clip: The Number of Women in Elected Office (10/17/2015 – 5:36)
    Cynthia Terrell talked about Representation 2020's report, The State of Women's Representation 2015-2016: A Blueprint for Reaching Gender Parity, which shows women are underrepresented in national, state, and local-level elected offices. She also examined possible solutions to achieve parity.
  • Video Clip: Impact of Women in Politics (01/03/2014 – 3:41)
    American University Women and Politics Institute Director Jennifer Lawless talked about the number of women in political office as of 2014.
  • Video Clip: Statistics of Women in Politics (6/9/2008 – 1:57)
    Fred Hochberg, Dean of the Milano New School for Management & Urban Policy gave the introductory speech, which included statistics about the number of women in politics in the U.S.
  • Video Clip: Media Coverage of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Campaign (7/9/2008 – 6:32)
    A discussion titled, "Women in Charge: The Evolving Role of Women in Politics" was held in the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. Panelists Andrea Bernstein, Dee Dee Myers, & Ellen Malcolm discuss the media's coverage of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. *Some language may be offensive to younger viewers.*
  • Video Clip: Benefits of Gender in Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2008 Campaign (7/9/2008 – 6:09)
    A discussion titled, "Women in Charge: The Evolving Role of Women in Politics" was held in the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. Panelists Andrea Bernstein, Dee Dee Myers, & Ellen Malcolm discuss the ways that gender benefitted Clinton's 2008 campaign.
  • Video Clip: Sen. Hillary Clinton's Concession Speech 2008 (6/7/2008 – 7:51)
    Senator Hillary Clinton spoke to her supporters during a final campaign rally at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. She spoke about the race and gender barriers her and Sen. Obama broke during their campaigns.
  • Video Clip: Women as Voters (3/25/2008 – 7:28)
    Panelist Susan Carroll talked about women as voters and activists. She focused on the suffrage movement and emerging trends among women voters in the 2008 election and beyond. This event was held at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum.
  • Video Clip: 2008 Gov. Sarah Palin Vice Presidential Acceptance Speech (9/3/2008 – 3:09)
    Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) said she would accept the Republican Party’s nomination as vice president at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
  • Video Clip: 1984 Rep. Geraldine Ferraro Vice Presidential Campaign Nomination Announcement (07/19/1984 – 2:12)
    Footage from the 1984 Democratic National Convention at which Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY) accepted the Democratic party's nomination for Vice President.
  • Video Clip: 1972 Rep. Shirley Chisholm Presidential Campaign Announcement (01/25/1972 – 4:54)
    Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) announced her bid to run for the Democratic nomination for the 1972 presidential campaign against presumed Republican nominee President Nixon.

Culminating Assessment:

  1. Have students create a timeline of historical events in the race and gender equality movements. Then discuss progress and areas where we still need to improve.
  2. Research other minorities and women who have run for office. How was their path similar or dissimilar to the examples provided above?

Brattleboro Reformer

By Nancy Olson in the Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO >> Emerge Vermont wants to change the face of politics. The organization identifies, trains, and supports Democratic women in running for office at the local, state, and national levels.

On Sept. 19, at the Catherine Dianich Gallery, 139 Main St., Emerge Vermont will hold a "Discussion on Women in Politics." In attendance will be former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, the first and, so far, the only, woman governor of Vermont (1985-1991), who was U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland (1996-1999), and founder in 2013 of Emerge Vermont, and Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, Emerge Vermont class of 2014.

"The Dianich Gallery hosted the first Emerge Vermont event in Windham County three years ago," said Catherine Dianich Gruver, gallery curator and co-host. "Since (the beginning) I have been involved on the advisory board. In this important campaign season, we want to continue to put Emerge Vermont on the statewide map. It is critical to have bright Democratic women step up and run for office and get elected."

Former Brattleboro Select Board member Donna Macomber, Emerge Vermont board chairwoman and a 2008 alumna of the Emerge program in Massachusetts, is co-host of the event.

"Emerge Vermont provides a service to humankind on all levels," said Macomber in a press release. "By expanding opportunity for women to inhabit leadership positions, we all benefit. I am thrilled to be able to co-host an event here in Brattleboro that highlights the important work of Emerge Vermont. I look forward to seeing many friends and neighbors on Sept. 19."

According to Representation 2020, a non-partisan organization that works to raise awareness of the under-representation of women in elected office, Vermont ranks 41st among the 50 states in gender parity among elected officials. Only 21 percent of local select board members in Vermont are women, and Vermont is one of only three states never to have sent a woman to the U. S. Congress.

Since its founding, Emerge Vermont has trained nearly 50 women to run for elected office. Currently nine alumnae are running for state legislative seats. Nationally, Emerge affiliates have trained 2,000 Democratic women to run for office.

As someone who loves politics, Sen. Balint learned about the Emerge program at the non-partisan Women's Campaign School at Yale University. She became involved in planning the Windham County 2013 initial Emerge Vermont event and subsequently attended Emerge Vermont training.

"I'm so glad I did," she said in an email. "It not only gave me the specifics I need to do effective fundraising, and the frameworks I could use to help plan my campaign and its messaging, it also put me in touch with a great network of men and women who were very supportive of my decision to run."

Emerge Vermont is one of 17 states which are affiliates of the national organization, Emerge America, founded in 2005 by Andrea Dew Steele.

"(Steele) created Emerge America because she saw there was a great need nationally for a political training program and support system — our network — for Democratic women," said Allison Abney, communications director for Emerge America. "Women were underrepresented in government everywhere she looked, and to effect change it would mean we would need to go into every state and have a 365-day a year presence."

According to Ruth Hardy, executive director of Emerge Vermont, it's important to have women in elected office because having more diverse people at the table leads to better policy-making.

"Women tend to be better listeners and more collaborative decision-makers than men, willing to work across the table or aisle to find solutions to tough problems," she said in a phone interview."Furthermore, in our society, women are, for the most part, still the primary caretakers for families, children and elders. They bring that life experience to a broad spectrum of issues including the economy, health care, workforce issues, public safety, childcare, and reproductive rights."

Balint had this advice for women who might want to run for office but feel intimidated.

"No matter how much you study or prepare, you will never assure yourself that you know enough to run," she said. "So, live with that tension and jump in anyway. Voters do not want a perfect candidate. They want one who is genuine, works hard, and is willing to learn."

The Emerge Vermont event, which is free and open to the public, includes a silent auction and a reception with light refreshments. Registration is suggested. Contributions are appreciated. For more information contact Executive Director Ruth Hardy at [email protected] or visit

Featured in the gallery is an exhibit of Kennedy Family photos from the Mark Shaw Photographic Archive (official opening Oct. 6 during Gallery Walk). As a photographer for LIFE magazine in the 1950s and 60s, Mark Shaw took photos of John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy. According to the archive's web site, the friendship he developed with them resulted in his being their "unofficial" family photographer. The archive is the work of Shaw's only son David and David's wife Juliet Cuming.

The American Prospect

The 2016 Olympics in Rio were both a triumph for American athletes and a tribute to the lasting impact of Title IX, the 1972 law that set out to equalize educational and athletic opportunities for the nation’s women and girls. Women made up a majority the 554 American athletes at this year’s Olympics, and brought home fully half of the 121 medals won by U.S. competitors.

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US News and World Report

By Susannah Wellford

I got a card in the mail last week that I can't stop thinking about. I'd lost a close friend, and Patti Russo wanted me to know that she was thinking about me and hoped I was doing OK. I also got a text from Anne Moses telling me she was there if I needed to talk.

Why is this unusual? Because Patti, Anne and I run national political organizations training women to run (Women's Campaign School at Yale, Ignite and Running Start). We are direct competitors, fighting for the same funding, the same publicity and a share of the same demographic. But the women's political world that we belong to is groundbreaking in our commitment to work together to get more women elected, rather than to pull each other down to elevate our own groups.

When I speak to women around the world about barriers to leadership, I consistently hear that other women are their worst enemies. This is so widespread that I'd put it in the top 10 of reasons why women feel they can't succeed. Women are said to be the worst bosses, not supportive of their peers' ambition and reluctant to pull up those coming behind them. The "mean girls" stereotype is alive and well. Meanwhile, the men have the Old Boys Club which still seals deals on the golf course or over a cigar at the club. They sponsor each other while we too often hold each other back. How can women hope to succeed in business and politics when we aren't opening doors for each other?

A few years ago, philanthropist Swanee Hunt created a group called Political Parity to address how we can do a better job of getting more women elected to political office. She invited the leaders of women's political empowerment groups from around the country to meet regularly to share ideas and find ways to work together. And while I had a passing acquaintance with these women before our Parity meetings, it was at these day long sessions that I developed real relationships with many of them that were both personally fulfilling and that led to innovative partnerships. These meetings remind us that our greatest strength comes from putting our heads together to solve problems, and that as allies we are far more powerful than we would be in our individual silos, carefully guarding our ideas.

At an impromptu lunch this July during the Democratic National Convention, Russo, Erin Loos Cutraro (She Should Run), , Erin Vilardi (Vote Run Lead), Cynthia Terrell (Representation 2020), Tiffany Dufu (Levo League), Jessica Grounds (Project Mine the Gap) and I sat together talking. It can be lonely being the head of an organization, difficult to be a working mother, hard to navigate fundraising, board relationships and keeping staff happy. We talked equally about personal trials and business opportunities. We laughed a lot. I am so grateful to this network of women who support me and make me smarter about how I do my job.

And I'm glad that we are setting a good example for the women we serve that we are stronger when we work together.

By Prachi Gupta

Hillary Clinton has become the first female presidential candidate of a major political party in American history, showing American women and girls that they, too, can one day run for political office and succeed. But she's not the only female politician whose election would be historic. In a Congress that boasts only 19 percent women, over a dozen women from both sides of the aisle could end up breaking barriers if elected in November. Based in part on input from's nonpartisan Representation2020 project, here are 19 women from across the country who would be historic firsts if elected into the House of Representatives or the Senate.

1. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D): U.S. House of Representatives, Delaware

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Lisa Blunt Rochester has dedicated her career to public service in her home state, serving as Delaware deputy secretary of health and social services, Delaware secretary of labor (the first black woman to hold this position), and then later serving as Delaware personnel director and CEO of Wilmington Urban League. She briefly moved to China after her second child was ready to go to college, where she wrote a book "about women who reinvented themselves," she told She is running for an open seat in Delaware's at-large district vacated by Rep. John Carney (D), who is running for governor.

2. Katie McGinty (D): U.S. Senate, Pennsylvania

If elected, she will be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate.

Katie McGinty, the ninth of 10 children, was born in Northeastern Philadelphia to a police officer and restaurant hostess. She's the first in her family to go to college, graduating from St. Joseph's University with a degree in chemistry and then going to Columbia Law School. She's focused her career on clean energy and environmental protection in both the public and private sectors, with stints working for Sen. Al Gore and former President Bill Clinton, who tapped her as his top environmental aide and later as chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality (she was the first woman ever to hold this position). Early on in her career, she spent over a year in India as an energy research fellow, where she adopted two girls from Mother Teresa's orphanage with her husband, Karl. They later had one biological daughter and live in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

3. Pramila Jayapal (D): U.S. House of Representatives, Washington

If elected, she will be the first Indian American woman in Congress.

Pramila Jayapal, who earned an endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, came to the U.S. from India at 16 on her own because her parents wanted her to have more opportunities. She attended Georgetown University and worked on Wall Street before becoming a labor organizer and national advocate for the civil rights of women and immigrants. She became a U.S. citizen in 2000, and in 2001, after 9/11, founded South Asian and Arab advocacy group Hate Free Zone (which was later changed to OneAmerica). As a Washington state senator, she helped pass a $15 minimum wage and paid sick days in Seattle. She is running for Congress in Washington state's 7th District.

4. Angie Craig (D): U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota

If elected, she will be the first openly gay person to represent Minnesota in Congress.

Angie Craig is the daughter of a single mother, and she grew up in a trailer park with her two siblings. She graduated from the University of Memphis, worked as a journalist, and later became a business executive. In 2000, according to the Human Rights Campaign, her custody battle over her adopted son led to a ruling that helped make it possible for other same-sex couples to adopt. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, Craig rejoiced, saying, "When I came out in a small Arkansas town in 1989, I couldn't imagine that I would live to see this day. I've watched as countless families, all over the country, struggle for the same recognition that my wife Cheryl, our four children, and I were fortunate to be afforded by my adoptive home in Minnesota. While California, and then Minnesota, have recognized our marriage since 2008, we'll celebrate today with the kids knowing that no longer can anyone, anywhere in this country, tell us that we're not a family." She is running for Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District.

5. Denise Juneau (D): U.S. House of Representatives, Montana

If elected, she will be the first Native American woman in Congress and the first openly gay person to represent Montana in Congress.

 Denise Juneau can trace her family's Montana roots back more than 50 generations, long before Montana was a state. She was raised on Montana's Blackfeet Indian Reservation, is a descendant of the Blackfeet tribe, and is member of the Mandan Hidatsa tribe. Juneau has worked in education policy, boasting degrees from Montana State University, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the University of Montana School of Law, and in 2008, became the first Native American woman in the U.S. ever elected to an executive statewide office as Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is the first openly gay woman to run for federal office in Montana and is running for Montana's at-large congressional district. If elected, Juneau will be the first woman Montana has sent to the House since 1941.

6. Suzanna Shkreli (D): U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan

If elected, she will be the first Albanian American woman in Congress.

Suzanna Shkreli, 29, works as an assistant prosecutor for Macomb County, Michigan, taking on child abuse cases. Shkreli joined the race in July as the Democratic Party challenger to incumbent U.S. Rep Mike Bishop (R) after Melissa Gilbert dropped out of the race. "I've been doing public service for the last five years," she told the Detroit Free Press. "I have no political experience, [but] when Melissa Gilbert dropped out, that's when I decided to step up and run." In a statement on her campaign website, Shkreli notes, "I'm a first generation American. My parents are working class Albanian immigrants who worked very hard to help my sister, my brothers and me get a good education and go to college. That's why I've dedicated my career to giving back, and helping make sure the next generation has the same opportunities I had." She is running for Michigan's 8th Congressional District.

7. Kamala Harris (D): U.S. Senate, California

If elected, she will be the second black woman in Congress (after Carol Mosely Braun in 1992) and the first Indian American in the Senate.

Born to an Indian physician and a Jamaican Stanford professor, Kamala Harris is poised to become America's first black female senator in two decades and its first Indian American woman. Her parents divorced when Harris was a child and she grew up mostly with her mother, Shyamala, who took her two daughters to Baptist church and on trips to India. Harris attended the historically black college Howard University, got a law degree from Hastings College, and then worked at an assistant district attorney's office in Oakland. Devoted to criminal justice reform, Harris told the New York Times Magazine of racial bias among prosecutors. "They were talking about how these young people were dressed, what corner they were hanging out on and the music they were listening to. I remember saying: 'Hey, guys, you know what? Members of my family dress that way. I grew up with people who live on that corner.'" In 2010, she became California's first female, first black, and first Asian American attorney general.

8. Loretta Sanchez (D): U.S. Senate, California

If elected, she could be the first Latina in the Senate.

Sanchez, one of seven children of Mexican immigrants, ventured into politics in the mid-'90s after working as a financial analyst for Booz Allen Hamilton. Though originally registered as a Republican, hearing anti-immigrant rhetoric from then-GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan changed her mind. In 1996, she ousted conservative Rep. Bob Dornan from his House seat by about 1,000 votes. Political consultant John Shallman, who managed her campaign, told the Los Angeles Times recently, "When she first ran, she was not expected to be the nominee, not even by the Democratic Party." He continued: "And when she was the nominee, they didn't believe she had a chance. Why? Because she was Latino and a woman." She served California's 46th Congressional District from 1997 to 2003, before serving the 47th District from 2003 until 2013. In the 2016 election, she will be up against Kamala Harris for a California Senate seat.

9. Catherine Cortez Masto (D): U.S. Senate, Nevada

If elected, she will be the first woman to represent Nevada in the Senate and could be the first Latina in the Senate.

Catherine Cortez Masto hails from Las Vegas, Nevada, and pursued a career as an attorney after graduating with a degree in finance from the University of Nevada, Reno, and Gonzaga University School of Law. She has served as a federal criminal prosecutor at the United States Attorney's Office and as assistant county manager for Clark County. She later served as the state's attorney general for eight years. Upon accepting an award from the Women's Research Institute of Nevada in 2013, she said, "As we celebrate Women's History Month, we need to recognize that women have the capacity to be great leaders. They bring a different and much needed perspective to the table. Nevada could benefit from more women in leadership roles and so could our country."

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10. Lathika Mary Thomas (R): U.S. House of Representatives, Florida

If elected, she could be the first Indian American woman in Congress.

Lathika Mary Thomas is the daughter of Indian doctors who immigrated to America in 1972. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, the 37-year-old moved to Florida as a child. Thomas identifies as a "strong conservative Republican" and has worked in state government, under Gov. Rick Scott's administration, since he was elected in 2010. According to her website, she currently serves as general counsel at the Department of Elder Affairs. "With the strong support and help of our Indian community, I will be able to be victorious in my race for Congress. If I am elected, I will be the first Indian-American woman to serve in Congress. This would truly be a historic event," she told website Desi Life and Times last year. She is running for Florida's 2nd District.

11. Denise Gitsham (R): U.S. House of Representatives, California

If elected, she will be the first Republican Chinese American woman in Congress.

With a Chinese mother from Taiwan and a Canadian father, Denise Gitsham says she's "ambiguously ethnic enough to pass for almost anything." This is how, she joked at CPAC last year, she ended up "as a Hispanic coalitions coordinator" for George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Non-politicos might recognize the attorney and small-business owner from her brief appearance on The Bachelor in 2008. She is running for California's 52nd District.

12. Sue Googe (R): U.S. House of Representatives, North Carolina

If elected, she will be first Asian American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress.

Sue Googe was born in extreme poverty on a remote island without running water or electricity in communist China. Her parents were illiterate, but after demonstrating a talent for reading and writing, Googe was able to gain admission to a boarding school at age 11. At age 20, she moved to mainland China and worked as an accountant, and at 26, she moved to America and studied computer science. She became a U.S. citizen in 2005 and went on to found a real estate investment firm in Cary, North Carolina. She is running in North Carolina's 4th Congressional District, and according to the Representation 20/20 project, she would be the first woman to represent that district at the federal level.

13. Misty Snow (D): U.S. Senate, Utah

If elected, she could be the first openly transgender person in Congress and would be the youngest U.S. senator in American history.

Misty Snow, 30, comes from a low-income family and works as a cashier at a grocery store. But with the Democratic Party's support behind her, and a recent primary election win in Utah, she has already made history as being one of two openly transgender women to win a congressional primary. If elected, Snow just might make history in two ways: She would be the first transgender person elected to Congress and the youngest U.S. senator ever. "Even if you don't think I can win, I am a voice of the LGBT community," she recently told Refinery29. "I am a voice of the millennials. I'm also the voice of working people — I work at a grocery store — and I think we need more working people representation in government."

14. Misty Plowright (D): U.S. House of Representatives, Colorado

If elected, she could be the first openly transgender person in Congress.

Misty Plowright is a self-described "computer geek," military veteran, and polyamorous transgender woman. She was raised by a single mother and relied on public assistance. "Frankly, I don't think there's a whole lot of people up on Capitol Hill who know what it's like to bust their ass and still not make ends meet," she told the Guardian. "I've stared at cat food and wondered if I was really that hungry. No one in Congress knows what that feels like." She lives with her wife Lisa and their partner Sebastian in Colorado Springs. Along with Snow, Plowright made history with her primary win in June. She is running in Colorado's 5th District.

15. Susan Narvaiz (R): U.S. House of Representatives, Texas

If elected, she will be the first Latina woman to represent Texas in Congress.

Born in Ohio, Susan Narvaiz moved to San Antonio, Texas, as a child. In 1995, she settled in San Marcos, Texas, where she became the town's mayor and served three terms. In addition to her public service, she is the president and CEO of Core Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that advises on public policy, public relations, and organizational change. She also sits on the board or advisory committee for many organizations, like Girl Scouts of Central Texas, Freedom Legacy International, and the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, according to the Wall Street Journal. Narvaiz is running to represent Texas's 35th Congressional District, a new district that was created based on the 2010 Census report, after two failed bids.

16. Kelli Ward (R): U.S. Senate, Arizona

If elected, she could be the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate.

Dr. Kelli Ward, a 47-year-old osteopath, previously served in the state senate. She is challenging U.S. Sen. John McCain, who has been an Arizona senator for three decades, in the Aug. 30 primary. Ward is a strong supporter of Donald Trump and said in a recent interview with Conservative Review that she espouses the same "populist conservative values" as the Republican presidential nominee.

17. Thuy Lowe (R): U.S. House of Representatives, Florida

If elected, she will be the first Asian-American woman to represent Florida in Congress.

Thuy Lowe's parents came to America as refugees, fleeing violence in Vietnam in the 1970s. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Lowe grew up in Orlando, graduated from the University of Central Florida, and started a company — reportedly with just $50 — that provided medical transportation services to disadvantaged citizens in her local community. She retired after 10 years. She is running in the 10th District in Florida. This will be her second congressional bid.

18. Tammy Duckworth (D): U.S. Senate, Illinois

If elected, she will be the first Thai American in the Senate.

Tammy Duckworth has already made history, becoming the first female veteran and the first Asian American woman from Illinois elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. As an Iraq War veteran whose legs were amputated after her helicopter was shot down in 2004, Duckworth has been leading the offensive against Donald Trump for joking about how easy it is to get a Purple Heart. After her recovery, she worked for the Department of Veteran Affairs and was appointed to assistant secretary by President Barack Obama in 2009.

19. Ann Kirkpatrick (D): U.S. Senate, Arizona

If elected, she could be the first woman from Arizona in the Senate.

Ann Kirkpatrick was born and raised on the White Mountain Apache Nation reservation in Eastern Arizona, where her father ran a general store and mother taught at a school. Moving away from the reservation in the second grade was a culture shock for her. "In Apache culture, property's not of big value, and you're supposed to share with your family," she told the Phoenix New Times. "My friends and I used to play a game to see if we could walk in the forest and not leave a footprint. Then, you go into Anglo culture, and it's all about property and ownership." She went on to become valedictorian of her class, and obtained a bachelor's degree and a law degree from the University of Arizona. Kirkpatrick was the first female deputy county attorney in Arizona's Coconino County and later served as a city attorney for Sedona before launching her own law firm. In 2004, after community leaders nudged her into a career in politics, she served in the Arizona State House for two terms. In 2008, she was elected to represent Arizona's First District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which she continues to serve.